Tag Archives: adminstration

Understanding Student and Teacher Abilities

Students and teachers all have various strengths and weaknesses. In this post, we will look at students’ mental skills and the cognitive complexity of teachers. Teachers need to be aware of the student’s mental skills, and teachers and administrators need to be mindful of their cognitive complexity and that of their peers.

For Students

Students are frequently judge and assessed for their mental abilities. Mental abilities can be defined in many different ways. Some of the mental abilities traits are fluency, memory, verbal comprehension, inductive reasoning, and mathematical/logical aptitude.

Some of these so-called mental abilities can be influenced by studying in a second language. For example, most ESL students struggle with verbal comprehension of other people’s words and fluency. Therefore, these students may be thought of as having weak mental abilities when, in fact, they are struggling to function academically in a second language.

This means that when trying to understand students’ mental abilities, it is essential to remember that assessing mental abilities is tricky in the best case situation and that there are unique factors for individual students that need to be considered.

For Teachers

Teachers also have the same mix of ability when it comes to mental capacities. However, because of a teacher’s added responsibility of managing and leading students’ instructional experience, teachers can also be further analyzed in terms of their cognitive complexity.

Cognitive complexity is a person’s ability to sort through information and organize it to be understandable. General, people, can be viewed on a continuum from low to high cognitive complexity.

Teachers who exhibit low cognitive complexity will only see one or two aspects of a problem or challenging situation. In addition, such teachers often rely heavily on stereotypes when dealing with students, causing them to miss each student’s uniqueness. Decision making is fast as the teacher is willing to move on limited information. Lastly, such teachers with low cognitive complexity have a low locus of control, which means they often are not convinced that they have control over external conditions.

Teachers with high cognitive complexity often have a less deterministic, stereotypical view of the world. This means that alternative solutions are sought to deal with problems. The locus of control is placed within the individual, which means that the teacher believes they have authority and influence on their environment.

Teachers with high cognitive complexity are often better at dealing with rapid change and complex situations. In addition, these individuals are better at obtaining and acquiring information for decision making.

However, there are some words of caution. Cognitive complexity is steeped in cultural values. In other words, the traits that are defined as being complex are traits that are valued in a western context. In a different context, such abilities may be seen in an opposite light. What this means is that high complexity is situational, not only cultural but also for a person. For example, a person might demonstrate high complexity in one situation and not in another, such as when going into a familiar situation or an unfamiliar one.

Furthermore, another related idea is that whether a person has high or low cognitive complexity depends on who they are being compared to. Among one group of people, a person may have the highest of the low cognitive complexities. Still, this same person would be viewed differently compared to a different group of people.

Lastly, to label some people low or high in cognitive ability is somewhat discouraging for people who may be labeled as low. The points above indicate that people’s complexity can change due to the situation or who they are compared to. Probably all teachers have exhibited all of these low and high traits at one time or another. Even students can shift back and forth at times.

Conclusion

Teachers and students all have different abilities. It is crucial to understand how people think and work around you and how you think and work to avoid confusion. Students are judge on their mental abilities, while teachers may be judge based on their management style. When this happens, there must be great care to consider the big picture and all the influencing people’s factors so that teachers and students are not judged negatively in an unfair way.

Scheduling & Tracking Challenges in K-12

Time management is a constant problem in teaching. How long should class periods be? How often should students meet for one class? These are just some questions that need to be addressed.

Despite the challenge and confusion, determining how much time students spend with a teacher has some flexibility to it. In this post, we will look at options in terms of scheduling the time that students spend with teachers.

Looping

Looping is a scheduling strategy that involves the teacher moving to the next grade or subject with their students. For example, if the teacher is a multi-subject teacher at the primary level he or she may move from 1st to 2nd grade with their students. If the teacher is a subject teacher they may move from Algebra to Geometry with their students. This experience can last anywhere from 2-5 years for the students and teacher.

One of the main benefits of this is the relationships that develop between the teacher and students. The students benefit from the continuity of expectations. The teacher does not have to reestablish routines and procedures every year and can move straight to teaching rather than classroom management. Lastly, the teacher also knows the strength and weaknesses of all the students and can adjust accordingly.

Among the problems with this is actually a prior benefit. If the students get along well with the teacher looping can be a fun experience but if the students and teacher do not get along well this can mean spending up to five years with students or a teacher that is disliked. This can lead to serious problems with performance and motivation as well as stress for the teacher.

Another problem is the workload for the teacher. Every year the teacher is preparing new materials, not for a familiar class but a completely new one. This is particularly challenging when the teacher is going through the loop the first time. Essentially it can take up to five years to make it through one loop, which is a substantial amount of time for a teaching career. This kind of context is almost impossible for a new teacher and difficult for an experienced one with constant year-to-year changes.

Block Scheduling

Block scheduling involves extending the time of a traditional period from 50-60 minutes to 80-90 minutes. Essentially, block scheduling involves extending the class period by 50%. This gives the teachers more time to go deeper into content, it reduces the amount of time spent on transitions, and provides students with a glimpse into what class periods are like at the college level.

There are two common variations of block scheduling the 4×4 plan and the A/B plan. The 4×4 plan involves taking four classes in the first semester using the block schedule and a different four classes for the second semester. For example, if a student is taking algebra first semester, using a block schedule they would not take algebra the second semester because they have already completed all the hours they need. This can be a problem because the students would not be exposed to any math for almost a year.

The  A/B plan involves having students take all 8 subjects at the same time. The difference in this approach is that students will have the same classes every other day. For example, if a student is taking Algebra, they may have that class on Monday and Wednesday instead of every day. This allows the class to meet for the entire year, which helps to keep academic skills stronger.

The main complaint about block scheduling comes from non-core teachers. Subjects such as music and foreign languages benefit from meeting every day rather than every other day or for only one semester. The same can be said of PE as students need frequent exercise. Another problem is one similar to looping. If the teacher or students are bad it can be torture to have to deal with them for an additional 30 minutes.

Conclusion

Managing the time that teachers spend with students has several options to consider. There are strengths and weaknesses to all approaches but it is still important to know what your options are when making these decisions.

Contracts and Tenure for Teachers

Finding that first teaching job and signing that first contract is the dream of many young students. Another goal for many is to achieve tenure. In this post, we will look at the teacher’s contract and tenure.

Contract

A contract is an agreement with obligations between two or more peoples or parties. It clearly explains the duties and rights of both sides. From the teacher’s perspective, duties can include such things as the teaching assignment, length of the school day, and length of the school year. In terms of rights for the teacher, it may address such items as salary, max class size, and the process for grievances. A grievance is a way to complain about working conditions such as classes that are too large or neglect of building maintenance.

All teachers, including teachers with tenure, sign a contract. The contract is generally of one academic year in length. One reason for this length is because budgets are generally year-to-year and it may be necessary to not renew contracts of teachers. Another reason is that if a teacher who does not have tenure is not performing it is easier to let go of them after a year than if they are signed to a multi-year contract.

Once a contract is signed, it needs to be approved by the school board, the principal or HR Director represents the school board but the contract is generally not considered official until the school board approves it. This is often a formality as the school board usually empowers the local administration to select the faculty.

A breach of contract takes place when either party does not fulfill its obligations in the contract. For example, a school does not pay a teacher or a teacher stops working for the school. The penalties for this vary. For the teacher, it is possible to have your teaching license suspended or revoked. A school that breaches a contract can be fined. However, this varies from state to state.

If it is ever necessary to breach a contract as a teacher it is best to ask for a release through a resignation letter. Often, employers avoid keeping workers who no longer want to be there and the release is granted. Also, the administrative headache of keeping someone employed who does not want to be there is not worth it. Most contracts have some explanation of how either party can get out of it.

Tenure

Tenure is a removal of the probationary status of a new teacher. With tenure, a teacher moves to what is called a continuing contract, which stays in effect until further notice. This means that signing a yearly contract is mainly a formality until otherwise. Obtaining tenure varies by state. In some places, it based on time serve while in others it takes an action from the school board.

The primary purpose behind tenure is to allow the teacher to focus on teaching without concerns with interference. One example of interference would be worrying if you had a job next year because of philosophical differences with the administration.

Tenure is not a guaranteed job, rather it means that there must be grounds for dismissal. There must be a strong reason to dismiss a tenured teacher as the job now belongs to the teacher. Examples of ways to get fired for teachers with tenure include gross negligence, clear incompetence, or inappropriate behavior with students. Even when a tenured teacher should be dismissed many states require that the tenured teacher is given a chance to change their behavior. The exception being for highly offensive behavior such as being convicted of a crime.

The exception to this is when a school has to reduce the size of its workforce. When a school is struggling financially even tenured teachers are not safe. The school simply needs to demonstrate that they do not have the finances to support all of their current teachers.

Conclusion

A teacher needs to be aware of the hiring and dismissal policies for their own protection. Failure to be aware of the ideas covered in this post could put the teacher in a bad situation in which there appears to be no solution.

Due Process

Conflict is a natural result of interacting with people. Whether in the home or job there are times when rules are ignored and subordinates clash with leadership. In the context of the school, it is important that certain processes are respected and observed when it may be necessary to discipline or terminate a teacher. In this post, we will look specifically at due processes and it’s role in administrative concerns with teachers.

Definitions

Due process within the context of education means that teachers are treated fairly and their rights should not be violated. Of course, there is always a problem with determining what is fair and what is a violation of a teacher’s rights. Determining these two things is left to the courts to decide for each case.

The idea of due process is derived from the 5th and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution. The fifth amendment speaks of how a person will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property with due process of law. The 14th amendment essentially says the same thing but indicates that the state governments also cannot take away things without due process.

When attempting to determine the fairness of an action an administrator may take against a teacher. There are two forms of due process that need to be considered which are substantive due process and procedural due process.

Substantive due process is essentially how big of a deal the issue/problem is and whether the action of the administration is reasonable for the issue/problem. An example of a substantive process being unfair is if a teacher is terminated from their employment for being 10 minutes late one time. The problem in this example is tardiness and the action was termination. The question to consider is whether being late one time for ten minutes is substantive, or a  big enough of a deal, to justify termination?

Procedural due process relates to how fair the process was for making a decision about a teacher. Returning to the example of the late teacher, if the teacher was dismissed without even hearing their side of the story, many would see that as a violation of procedures. This is because the teacher was not given an opportunity to explain what happened.

Other Factors

The definition of due process varies from one state to the other. However, below are some examples of proper due process when needing to handle disciplinary measures with a teacher.

  • Provide an opportunity for the teacher to share their side of events.
  • Depending on the sensitivity of the situation, a teacher should have an opportunity to confront witnesses
  • Be sure to give ample notice of the termination and evidence for why.
  • The right to an attorney
  • Impartial, objective, decision-making

This is not an exhaustive list. Rather, it is just some of the ideas that one needs to be aware of.

The ideas presented here are primarily limited to the United States. Due process is found in other countries. However, in some contexts, the law is on the books but not enforced. This can leave a teacher in a bad situation without help. This is especially true if foreign teachers who often have no protection when working abroad.

Conclusion

Due process is a tool meant to not only protect the teacher but to also protect the school as well. If a process is conducted fairly the teacher cannot make false claims against the school. As such, both sides need to be familiar with this process just in case it is necessary to make decisions that may appear to be detrimental to one of the parties.